Children Escape Bushfires Barefoot, Given Just Minutes To Flee

Incredible stories of survival have emerged from the NSW bushfires, with children fleeing the blazes barefoot -- with just school uniforms on their backs.

Residents had just minutes to pack and flee as fire engulfed the small town of Bobin on the NSW Mid North Coast, destroying homes and reducing parts of the public school to rubble.

The community, north of Taree, bore the brunt of a massive blaze on Friday afternoon that gave residents just minutes to pack up and leave.

David Thies was trying to save a nearby home when his wife Margaret noticed a grassfire cross their street and engulf their next-door neighbour's home.

Within 20 minutes, the fire would also devour the Thies's home and shed, giving the elderly couple barely enough time to escape with their dogs, a few possessions and the clothes on their back.

Firefighters work to contain a bushfire along Old Bar road in Old Bar. Image: AAP

The Thies family joined other families at a safe house outside town.

"There was no time to grab any bags she had packed," granddaughter Shina Nixon told AAP.

Bushfire Crisis


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The first victim of the unprecedented bushfires ravaging northern NSW has been named as 69-year-old Vivian Chaplain, a "strong woman" who died protecting her home.

"They all stayed awake in turns just staying alert for more danger. We didn't hear from them in over 24 hours; it was such a horrible night not knowing and listening to the RFS scanner."

Video from the town on the edge of the Tapin Tops National Park shows smouldering houses and the severely damaged public school.

Locals granted access to their homes reported that only the school's library and hall had survived.

The ruins of a house smoulders on Old Bar road, near Taree. Image: AAP

"(We) are safe but we have lost everything this afternoon," local Paul Miscamble posted to a Bobin Facebook group.

Bree Parker said the whole community was devastated by the losses.

"But we are grateful for who we have in our lives and what has been saved," she said.



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Three people have died in bushfires that have destroyed at least 150 homes across NSW, though there are fears the death toll could rise.

Crews remained in the Bobin area on Saturday night protecting properties, with the Tapin Tops blaze listed as watch and act.

It has burned more than 14,000 hectares.

Elsewhere, traumatised children have fled a raging fire - which claimed two lives in northern NSW - with such haste that they arrived at an evacuation centre without shoes.

Glen Innes Red Cross coordinator Margaret Kiehne has described how residents fled the small Northern Tablelands town of Wytaliba as the Kangawalla fire raged towards them on Friday night.

Brooke and Tristan Smith blacken out bush near their home at Wallaby Point, NSW. Image: AAP

 People had little more than the clothes they were wearing when they arrived at the evacuation centre at the Glen Innes showgrounds.

"The children arrived in school uniforms - some had no shoes, just shorts and shirts," Kiehne told AAP on Saturday evening.

"When the first lot of children arrived they were very traumatised. When the second lot came it was very emotional. They saw their mates, ran to them and threw their arms around them."

The bushfires have so far claimed two lives and authorities expect the death toll to rise. Seven people are missing.

One of the victims has been named as 69-year-old Wytaliba resident Vivian Chaplain.

A fire bombing helicopter works to contain a bushfire along Old Bar road. Image: AAP

It is thought some 20 properties have been destroyed in Wytaliba with the local primary school severely damaged.

One Wytaliba man had no identification when he showed up at the evacuation centre, Kiehne said.

The evacuation centre registered at least 33 people on Friday. They are now staying with friends or at motels in Glen Innes.

Some are already talking about heading back to start rebuilding.

Dave Webster and Graham Rogers armed with buckets of water prepare to protect their property. Image: AAP

"One of the men said to me today, just get me a tent and a camp bed and I'll go back and start building," Kiehne said.

Glen Innes Severn Council mayor Carol Sparks says Wytaliba - a small community of about 100 people - is in shock.

"Everybody knows each other and there are people missing that we haven't able to contact. It's very worrying," she told AAP.

Clarence Valley councillor Richie Williamson says the stories of devastation are "chilling".

A fire bombing helicopter works to contain a bushfire near homes. Image: AAP

"I was at Coutts Crossing, which is about 20 kilometres from Nymboida," he told ABC TV.

"It was the eeriest, strangest and most bizarre day that I've ever experienced.

"The sound and the roar of the fire front, and just the sheer anger that the fire front presented in almost an instant, is what's probably stuck with me the most."

Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys says "a number of people remain unaccounted for in the New England area".

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday evening said "seven people are currently unaccounted for".

"The situation is very serious," she said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and loved ones of those who have died and to all who have been affected by these fires."